Group A is one of, if not the most intriguing group in South Africa.
France should not be in the World Cup.
South Africa is the host nation.
Uruguay has one of the hottest strike combinations in the world.
Mexico has failed to get consistent performances from their young stars.
Here are the team-by-team previews for Group A:
The host nation will try to continue the tradition of advancement to the knockout round by host nations.
It will be a difficult task, but the Bafana Bafana should advance with a streak of steady performances.
Players To Watch:
Steven Pienaar: The Everton midfielder will be a key force in midfield.
Siphiwe Tshabalala: Not only is this one of the best names in the World Cup but the midfielder (pronounced SHA-BA-LA-LA) will team up with Pienaar to keep the midfield play consistent and without worry for the Bafana Bafana supporters.
Schedule: June 11 vs. Mexico, June 16 vs. Uruguay, June 22 vs. France
The French team got extremely lucky when Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland was not called and advanced them to South Africa. But, whether or not the Irish fans have accepted it yet or not, France is in the World Cup and, at first glance, are the favorites to win. But no so fast.
The French players have not had the best publicity going into the tournament either. William Gallas was injured in a dune buggy accident, coach Raymond Domenech has had his team climb up a glacier in the Alps, and Nicolas Anelka was involved in a mountain bike crash. Needless to say, the French team are hoping the World Cup gets here very soon so they can play soccer and not get hurt in ridiculous ways (Anelka and Gallas are both okay).
Players to Watch:
Yoann Gourcuff: The Bordeaux midfielder is garnering interest from Arsenal and is most likely going to join the French contingent at the Emirates, even if his performance in South Africa doesn't stand out.
Thierry Henry: Henry's past year has not been spectacular. Pep Guardiola did not give him much playing time at Barcelona and, when he did play, it was not that great. Henry needs to have some type of positive influence on the field for Raymond Domenech's team.
Franck Ribery: Mr. Ribery is off the transfer market after signing an extension with Bayern Munich and that will help him focus more on the World Cup, instead of having to deal with the craziness of the transfer season with clubs going after him.
Schedule: June 11 vs. Uruguay, June 17 vs. Mexico, June 22 vs. South Africa
El Tri needs to find some type of stability within the team. Giovanni dos Santos is making a stupid fuss over quitting the team because his brother did not make the squad. Also, dos Santos and Carlos Vela, two of the stars of the future, had horrendous years at the club level. One young player who is on top of his form is Javier Hernandez, who has caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson and will be with Manchester United next season.
The Mexico squad also boasts some old stars who were supposed to pass the torch on to dos Santos, Vela, and Hernandez at this year's World Cup, but that might not happen. Older and more experienced players Guillermo Franco, Rafael Marquez, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco could be the keys to Mexico advancing.
Players to Watch:
Javier Hernandez: The future Manchester United player will have the opportunity to prove to the world why Sir Alex is signing this young forward.
Andres Guardado: Guardado is one of the young players that could emerge in South Africa and will be a key to the pace in the midfield in this tough group.
Schedule: June 11 vs. South Africa, June 17 vs. France, June 22 vs. Uruguay
The Uruguay team is one team that soccer fans should get to know quick. Oscar Tabarez's team is not looking for a two week vacation in South Africa and play three soccer games just for the hell of it.
The combination of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez is one of, if not the best, forward pairings coming to play in South Africa. They will give opposing defenses a problem and will be the main reason they have a chance to advance to the knockout round.
Players to Watch:
Diego Forlan: The Atletico Madrid forward scored 18 goals in La Liga this season and was on fire during CONMEBOL qualifying as well.
Luis Suarez: Only 23 and the captain of one of the most storied clubs in Europe, Ajax Amsterdam, Suarez scored 35 goals in 33 games in the Eredivisie this season.
Schedule: June 11 vs. France, June 16 vs. South Africa, June 22 vs. Mexico
As of right now, I see this group as a complete crapshoot with too many variables involved to pick a clear cut favorite, but since I do need to pick two teams to advance, right now my gut feeling is that the Bafana Bafana will advance because of the homefield and Uruguay, if they score, will be hard to stop. As for France and Mexico, Les Blues need to score and have their experienced players step up, the same needs to be said for El Tri.
Advancing to Knockout Stage: Uruguay (1st), South Africa (2nd)